Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from November. We asked, “Have you ever had an incident where your writing made you feel like a “bad” parent or person? Did you resolve the conflict? If so, how?”
Carol Ungar wrote:
Last week I was trying to rev up my career, pretending to be an ace reporter instead of a not always very good mom. So I dreamed up a story idea, pitched it, and got a neighborhood weekly to take the bait. A news story about the local elections. Man on the street point of view. The oldest journalism trick in the book.
Early one morning, after sending the kids to school, I smeared on some lipstick and eyeliner, switched my Birkenstocks to a pair of black suede loafers, and drove to the mall to “work,” making pit stops at the tailors and dry cleaners to pick up my son’s pants and coat. Remember I’m always a mom, first a mom. In between errands I interviewed the girl at the juice bar, the security guard, and a guy delivering a caseload of CDs — scribbling their political wisdom into an old notebook that used to belong to one of the kids.
And then I wrote the story — fast. This was deadline stuff, to be submitted before Election Day, which was coming up soon.
I bought myself time by sending the kids out for pizza, which got me through the first draft. Then I stole time for the rewrite by forgetting to pick them up, figuring that they’d make their own way home. Of course, I wasn’t looking at the clock, just at the computer screen, and somehow the sky morphed from pale blue to periwinkle but the piece still seemed lopsided. So I cut and trimmed some more, and then reread my words out loud, and by that time the sky was a dark navy.
I could have rewritten indefinitely but it was late, so I hit the send key and went home. The house was empty. The kids were still gone. Missing. All three of them, three boys: the youngest seven, the middle one nine, the oldest eleven. Gone. I was starting to get scared and ratting on myself for losing my kids for this so called career, which hardly pays for anything and just eats up my time.
And of course I imagined all sorts of terrible things that could have happened to them, and then I whispered a prayer with a promise to be a better mom next time, not to just let my kids wander off into the night.
Then there they were, all three of them on their bikes, in a procession. Coming home.
The article never made it. Don’t know why. But I’ve got the kids.
Carol Ungar can be reached at tzirelchana(at)yahoo(dot)com.